WASHINGTON — Ahead of the International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 (IRF Summit), co-chairs Samuel Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, along with the Summit’s over 70 partner organizations around the world, have issued A Charter of Religious Freedom, calling for the protection of the universal human rights of religion, thought and conscience:
A CHARTER OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The International Summit on Religious Freedom for Everyone, Everywhere, All the Time
July 13-15, 2021, Washington D.C,
Whereas the right of freedom of religion and conscience belongs to every person by virtue of his or her humanity, and reflects the core of his or her dignity and personhood;
Whereas men and women are endowed with reason and free will, and by their nature desire the truth, which religion seeks to provide;
Whereas the right to religious freedom is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Whereas the denial of religious freedom to any person is to deny his or her right to live a fully human life and to flourish as a human being;
Whereas religious freedom is important to human beings because religion is important to human beings; the vast majority of the world’s people belong to a religious community or are religious in some form;
Whereas protecting religious freedom equally for all persons, and for all their respective religious communities, is critical to individual human flourishing, the flourishing of religion, and the flourishing of nations;
Whereas the striving of nations toward full equality of religious freedom for all their citizens, and all their religious and non-religious communities, can contribute to social harmony, economic prosperity, political stability, and the lowering of religion-related violence;
Whereas the achievement by nations of religious freedom for all their citizens and religious communities, protected in law and valued by culture, would dramatically increase international justice, stability, and peace;
Whereas the defense of religious freedom transcends partisanship and politics, and the protection of conscience serves as a fundamental cornerstone for the flourishing of just, free societies;
Whereas, tragically, religious freedom for all persons and all religious communities does not yet exist in any nation, and the denial of religious freedom in its various components is widespread and increasing;
Whereas, tragically, the ultimate form of religious freedom deprivation – violent religious persecution – is also widespread and increasing, and is causing enormous human suffering, the destruction of families and communities, and the destabilization of entire societies;
This Summit hereby declares:
That every government, every religious community, and every political and civil society organization in the world should strive toward the goal of achieving freedom of religion and conscience, for everyone, everywhere – protected in law and valued by culture.
That religious freedom should be understood as three interconnected levels of rights:
● The right of every human being freely to believe in religious truths, or not to believe, uncoerced by any human authority, especially the state with its extraordinary powers;
● The right to join with others in a religious community, which also possesses religious freedom. This freedom includes the right to pursue the goods natural to religious communities, such as building houses of worship, training clergy, establishing religious schools, developing and upholding religious doctrines. It includes the rights of parents to raise their children within their chosen faith community. It includes the rights of individuals and communities to share their beliefs with others and to invite others to join their religious communities. It includes the rights of adherents to leave any religious community and to join another;
● The rights of believers and of religious communities to live and act peacefully, within civil and political society, in accord with their religious beliefs. It includes the right of believers and their communities to draw on those beliefs as they participate in civic life. It includes the right to convey their religious views to the general public on issues of the common good, such as justice, peace, equality, and freedom.
That all people of good will, including leaders of international organizations, nations, religions, civil society institutions, media organizations, policy and political entities, should begin now to adopt practical steps toward the goal of achieving religious freedom for everyone, everywhere.
The Charter’s author, President of the Religious Freedom Institute and IRF Summit Steering Committee member Tom Farr, had this to say:
“This document represents the fervent aspirations of all those working to repulse international religious persecution and advance international religious freedom. It expresses the deep conviction that religious freedom is important because religion is important — to every person and every society. No human being can be truly free, and no society can be truly just, without religious freedom for everyone.”
In addition to its more than 70 diverse partners around the world, the Summit enjoys bipartisan support. Honorary co-chairs include Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
More information on the International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 is available here.
The full schedule of events for the summit is available here.
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International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 is convening a powerful, diverse coalition of religious and civil society groups to advocate for religious freedom for all people, everywhere at all times. The 2021 Summit will be July 13-15 in Washington, D.C.
Samuel Brownback served as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021. He is co-chair of the IRF Summit 2021.
Katrina Lantos Swett is president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and former chair and vice-chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). She is co-chair of the IRF Summit 2021.
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